Thursday, 27 August 2015

MELLOW MELON SALAD

by Claire Ragozzino
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Seasonality has come to instruct my approach to cooking throughout each month in so many ways. I look forward to various shapes and colors of summer squash gracing the market tables in July and August; the heirloom tomatoes of all sizes and shades in late summer, and the freshly plucked berries and stone fruit that lay in their small blue cardboard boxes. Once you’ve tasted the delights of eating seasonally it’s hard to consider eating, say, a stark grocery store tomato in March. And while there are times where it is near impossible to solely eat locally and seasonally, I let the notion of seasonality guide most of the dishes I prepare.

Mellow melon salad 4

This mellow melon salad is an example of how I cook (or lack thereof) in the summer. I generally pick up multiple items at the market at the beginning of the week, including everyday items like tomatoes, greens, herbs, and alliums; then I rotate in seasonal fare like berries and stone fruit, peas, pole beans, summer squash, corn, and peppers.


Mellow melon salad 3
Fresh melons are just about everywhere this time of year, and in so many lovely varieties. The large melon used here is called an Ogen melon, which is similar in taste to cantaloupe, but its flesh is green and its skin is a darker shade. I often aim to buy ripe melons so I can use them right away, so I gently press my nose to its skin to check for ripeness; if I smell a subtle sweet fragrance I know the melon is ripe, if there is an odor (similar to a bad avocado) then I know the melon is overripe.
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MELLOW MELON SALAD

Dressing
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves
3 teaspoons grade b maple syrup
1 small shallot
Fine sea salt and fresh pepper
Place dressing ingredients in a mini food processor and blend until emulsified. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Store dressing in a lidded jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Salad
Half of 1 leopard melon (or 1 small cucumber)
2 medium summer squash
2 ears of corn, shucked
2/3 cup grape or cherry heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped mint
½ teaspoon chopped lemon thyme leaves
Fine sea salt and fresh pepper
Half of 1 cantaloupe or honeydew melon, cut into wedges
A small handful of mint flowers
Prepare an ice bath and set aside. Peel the skin from the leopard melon (or cucumber) and slice in half lengthwise. Using a mandolin, shave each half of the melon and place the pieces in the prepared ice bath to crisp up a bit, about 10-15 minutes. Drain the melon and place on and dishtowel to dry. Using a julienne peeler (or mandolin) peel each side of the squash until you reach the seedy center. Place squash noodles in a large serving bowl and set aside.
Over a gas top stove, light a burner to a low flame. One at a time, char the corn cobs rotating with tongs to evenly char and cook the corn, set aside and allow corn to cool. Once cool enough to handle, stand the corn upright and use a large knife to cut kernels from the cob. Repeat with remaining ear of corn and place kernels in the bowl with the squash. To the bowl, add the tomatoes, leopard melon, parsley, mint, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Remove dressing from the refrigerator and give it a good shake. Drizzle a few spoonfuls over the squash noodle mixture, then taste and adjust, adding more dressing if needed. Slice the cantaloupe or honeydew into even wedges, then cut the flesh from the skin. Plate the wedges and top with summer squash noodles and mint flowers.
Makes 4-6 servings
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